Should We Be Concerned With Over-Marketing?
I still remember a time when the idea of seeing a video game commercial on TV was just plain silly. I.e., it could never happen. I still remember thinking a full trailer for a game shown in movie theaters couldn't happen, either. But these days, gaming is big business, and commercials and ads are commonplace. The question is, should we worry about over-marketing?
Look, it's great for the industry. More money means more resources and more opportunities to recruit the best artistic and technical talent in the world. There's no doubt we've benefited from the vastly increased popularity and overall sales, as development studios have continued to expand and impress in most every conceivable way. But there is one major difference between then and now: back then, I'd say at least 90% of those who participated in gaming would consider themselves "hardcore." It was a primary hobby. It was geeky, but we got into it. It was like being part of your own underground little club and that "little club" is very, very mainstream now. Recent analyst and publisher estimates say about 80% of the market is "casual" now.
The "casual" market, as we all know, is easily swayed by in-your-face ads and marketing. They're not frequenting game forums and doing a ton of research and chatting with hardcore followers of the industry. Almost by default, the casuals are not exactly arbiters of top-notch quality. It's great that gaming may very well be the only industry left that rewards quality; i.e., the best selling games are often the best received by critics. On the flip side, the worst tripe in the movie, music and book industries seem to top the charts. But how long can this last for video games if the casual market begins to dominate what we want...? They will readily respond to the aforementioned in-your-face advertising and the circle will begin: big advertising for game that isn't so great; casuals respond; game sells great, developers create another "meh" game.
Fortunately, I don't believe the situation is quite so dire just yet. And this is because the developers are gamers themselves. They want to create the best, most memorable product possible. They do care about sales, of course, but so many are so unbelievably dedicated and their #1 priority is quality. So long as game makers remain this way, and overall, consumers continue to reward quality on the whole, everything should be fine. I just worry about the day when the casual market makes everything go topsy-turvy and the masses turn gaming into the other entertainment venues...where chick lit dominates books, the most processed, artificial "music" tops charts, and "Hot Tub Time Machine" is #1 at the box office.
10/1/2010 Ben Dutka